Far-right turn: On Geert Wilders’ win in the Netherlands

The recent electoral success of Geert Wilders, a far-right anti-Islam populist, has placed the Netherlands at a critical crossroads. Despite being traditionally viewed as one of Europe\’s socially liberal nations, the preliminary election results reveal that Wilders\’s Party for Freedom (PVV) has emerged as the largest party with 37 seats in the 150-member lower house. The Labour-Green coalition secured 25 seats, while the incumbent People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) obtained 24. Although the PVV falls short of the 76 seats required for a majority, its noteworthy performance—securing three more seats than the VVD in the previous elections—positions Wilders to engage in coalition discussions and potentially become the nation’s first far-right Prime Minister.

Over the years, Wilders has cultivated a reputation as one of Europe\’s most radical far-right populists, advocating for the \”de-Islamisation\” of the Netherlands by proposing measures such as closing mosques, banning the Koran, and imposing restrictions on migrants from Muslim-majority nations. By strategically highlighting the migration issue during the campaign, he dealt a significant blow to the political establishment.

The PVV\’s victory is not a sudden or isolated incident. Wilders, a member of the House of Representatives since 1998, broke away from the conservative VVD in 2004 to establish the PVV, consistently championing his brand of populism in Dutch politics. Despite the VVD\’s historical reluctance to collaborate due to Wilders\’s controversial views, the PVV, by securing the highest number of seats, has positioned itself at the core of Dutch politics. The formation of a governing coalition led by Wilders remains uncertain, but even if he is denied power, the leader of the largest parliamentary party cannot be ignored. His rise mirrors the broader trend of far-right parties and populists gaining prominence across Europe, as seen in Marine Le Pen\’s close finish in France\’s 2022 presidential elections, the neo-fascist party in power in Italy, and the ascent of Germany\’s AfD with neo-Nazi roots as the second most popular party.

This outcome should serve as a wake-up call for Western establishment parties. The far-right leverages immigration and cost-of-living crises to garner public support for its exclusive, ethno-nationalist political agenda, while the political center struggles to maintain stability. It is crucial for establishment parties to formulate clear economic strategies and a robust political vision to counter the growing influence of far-right politics, reminiscent of Europe\’s precarious not-so-distant past.

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